How To Use The Foam Roller For Balance (Proprioception)


As we have previously suggested in our article on core stability, the foam roller has many uses in fitness and rehabilitation. Whilst self myofascial release may be its primary use, balance exercises can be performed on the roller as a medium for instability. These balance, or proprioception as it is sometimes known, exercises are incredibly important for both rehabilitation and prevention of sports related injuries. Therefore, this article will discuss some background information on balance and proprioception, the relevant research and as usual the most appropriate foam roller exercises.

What Is Proprioception?

Well, that may be a difficult question to answer. But technically it is:

“A specialised variation of the sensory modality of touch that encompasses the sensation of joint movement (kinesthesia) and joint position (joint position sense).” (Lephart et al., 1997)

Essentially, this means that there are sensors in the skin, ligaments, joints, etc that feed information to the brain about where the body is in space. This is essential for us to maintain our balance.

So, Why Should We Care About Balance (Or Proprioception)?

Sports medicine research has suggested that achieving functional and sport-specific activities after musculoskeletal trauma and rehabilitation can be enhanced significantly if proprioception is addressed and instituted early in the treatment program (Lephart et al., 1997). So, that is some pretty heavy stuff. However, the suggestion is that your outcomes or results from injury rehabilitation will be poorer if you do not include early balance training and proprioception exercises.

Reduced proprioception and reduced balance have been associated with the many injuries, including:

  • Knee Injuries – including ligament injuries (Barrack et al., 1989)
  • Ankle Injuries – including ligaments and chronic ankle instability (Garn & Newton, 1988)
  • Shoulder Injuries – including instability and post-surgery (Smith & Brunolli, 1989).
  • Low Back Injuries (Parkhurst and Burnett, 1994).

Therefore, anyone who undertakes athletic pursuits (which I know is most of you guys reading this…) should be very concerned about their proprioception and balance. Which leads us to some example exercises…

What Exercises Should I Do?

There are many variations and different types of proprioception and balance foam roller exercises. You can be creative with what you do, however, here are a few video examples:

Suitable For Lower Back Injuries

Suitable For Lower Limb Proprioception and Balance

What Type Will Be Most Useful?

Given that you are going to require a medium to large sized unstable surface the best product for this condition would be:

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Barrack RL, Skinner HB, Buckley SL Proprioception in the anterior cruciate deficient knee Am J Sports Med 17 1-6, 1989

Garn SN, Newton RA. Kinesthetic awareness in subjects with multiple ankle sprains. Phys Ther 68 1667-1671, 1988

Lephart SM, Pincivero DM, Giraido JL, Fu FH.  The role of proprioception in the management and rehabilitation of athletic injuries. Am J Sports Med 1997;25(1):131-137

Parkhurst TM, Burnett CN. Injury and proprioception in the lower back. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 1994;19(5):282-295.

Smith RL, Brunolli J. Shoulder kinesthesia after shoulder dislocation. Phys Ther 69 106-112, 1989

Photo Creditga.mike


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